by Anne Kasdorf
A spice store dedicated to all things organic, fair trade, and local? Pinch us.

Meet Pinch Spice Market co-owners Mike Mueller and the single-monikered Shoebocks: two former tech industry guys who wanted to try something different. These locals share a passion for cooking and wanted to bring a new culinary facet to their neighborhood when they opened Pinch in early 2012. They selected the West Bucktown location for its proximity to growing restaurant scenes in Wicker Park and Logan Square. “This is a food-centric part of the city, and it’s convenient for many people,” Shoebocks explains.

Certified Organic, Fair Trade Pinch is committed to offering certified organic herbs and spices whenever possible. What results are products boasting intense flavors and a longer life in your pantry. “The products are really fresh and potent. It makes cooking better,” Mike explains. Shoebocks grabs a jar of rosemary to prove his case in point: fragrant and a vivid sage green. Pinch doesn’t source from bulk suppliers that may let their stock sit on a warehouse shelf for a year before shipping it off to a retailer. Mike points out that this makes their selections more cost-effective than grocery store options.


Pinch doesn't source from bulk suppliers that may let their stock sit on a warehouse shelf for a year before shipping it off to a retailer.
For the novice chef looking to build an arsenal of go-to spices, both recommend paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper. However, Shoebocks is quick to point out that, “It really depends on the person. I prefer Herbs de Provence,” [a staple of French cuisine that combines lavender plus six savory ingredients]. “It goes great with fish. You can really sprinkle it on anything.” In the versatility category, he also reaches for truffle salt, which actually contains bits of truffle within the salt mix for a simple, savory addition to steak, bread and even popcorn. “Try sprinkling it on avocado.” he adds. “It’s delicious.” The co-owners are equipped with an endless supply of valuable tips on selection and preparation and even employed a minimalist store layout to best display the dizzying array of choices to avoid overwhelming customers with options.

What these well-versed owners are pretty proud of is their extensive stock of spice blends. Most spice rubs and herb blends are produced in-house from the traditional and exotic to the classic American to concoctions of their own, ahem, creativity. Shoebocks reaches for a jar of ivory flakes labelled “Buffy’s Slayer Helper” and we take a whiff. Ah ha. Garlic.

In the business of local While many products are sourced from remote corners of the world, Pinch is truly dedicated to local partnerships. The shop’s walls were clay plastered by local artist Anna Wolfson (who is credited with designing the rustic-chic walls of The Girl and the Goat), and shelving fixtures were constructed

Shoebocks reaches for a jar of ivory flakes labelled "Buffy's Slayer Helper" and we take a whiff. Ah ha. Garlic.
by local designer Sharchitecture. Cutting boards and spice racks made from the sustainable harvested wood of an Indiana farm are for sale. Recently, the shop played host to a gallery show of reclaimed wood furniture by Emotive Reclaim. Outside of the store, they’ve found a slew of neighboring retailers dedicated to building a network of support along Milwaukee Avenue. “Everyone is working for the same vision.”


Hundreds of options, so where to start? A few recommendations…
Product What it is… Add it to… Price/2 oz. jar
Ras el Hanout Savory blend of 26 organic spices Moroccan dishes $8.30
Ceylon Cinnamon Powder The sweeter, more delicate relative of the familiar Cassia cinnamon Curry dishes and sauces, cookies and cakes $8.50
Za’atar Middle Eastern blend of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac Yogurt for a zesty dip $5.70
Veggie Sprinkle Blend of lemon, ginger, garlic + 10 other seasonings Vegetables or Fish $6.90
Garam Masala Blend of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin and white pepper Indian dishes for an aromatic staple $8.70
Toast Crack A cinnamon sugar Your morning buttered toast $6.50
Pinch Spice Market, 1913 N. Milwaukee, pinchspicemarket.com
2013-01-07